Saturday, August 6, 2011

Want to depress yourself really fast?

Read something by John Steinbeck. I can't say I wasn't warned -- following my last Pulitzer Project post, when I mentioned that The Grapes of Wrath was up next on the list, one commenter said he'd been unable to finish it. I think I can see why, and I haven't even gotten to it yet. I checked a collected works book, Steinbeck's output during 1936 through 1941, out of the library and figured I might as well read the whole thing.

The first section of the book is a collection of short stories, The Long Valley. It includes stories like "Flight" and "The Snake." I swear each one is more depressing than the last! The writing is great -- Steinbeck was indeed good with a pen -- but when your reaction to a story is, holy crap, that was really creepy, or, jeez, I need to read some Wodehouse immediately to get that out of my brain, you do find yourself wondering just how he managed to become a best selling author. Were things so bad back in the 1930s that reading Steinbeck could make people feel better because their own lives weren't nearly as bleak?


  1. I have always loved Steinbeck - but it is true that most of his stories are gritty. I do think it was the times and a writer expressing social injustice and difficult realities in the way the folk singers did. He just didn't have a banjo behind him to lighten the impact!

  2. Try Faulkner (A Rose for Emily - for example.) It must have really ben a depressing time - but then again, how about Poe?

  3. Tell me about it: my mom got me "The Red Pony" when I was about 10, thinking it was a nice story about a boy and his pony. Little did she realize she'd have a sobbing child on her hands when the buzzards picked the eyeballs out of the little horse.



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